Joint Commission Abandons Planned Telehealth Standards

This past week brought a piece of good news for many in the telehealth community, as the Joint Commission announced that it was abandoning its plan to create new direct-to-patient (DTP) telehealth standards for hospitals and ambulatory health care centers. As Fierce Healthcare first reported, the accrediting agency, which initially announced its plans to create the standards in May, has opted not to move forward with them after all. “At this time, we have closed the field review and decided not to move forward with the proposed telehealth standards,” a Joint Commission spokeswoman told the publication. “We will continue to accept comments and evaluate options.”

What would the new standards have required? Attorney Nathaniel Lacktman of Foley & Lardner, who specializes in telehealth law, explained in a recent post on his blog, Health Care Law Today, that they would have forced Joint Commission-accredited hospitals to obtain informed consent from patients prior to delivering care via telehealth. In addition, providers would have had to discuss with patients the “type of modality that will be used” before providing care. Some telehealth advocates worried that the new standards would have created additional burdens for providers and organizations. “It’s really problematic for hospitals that spent a lot of time and resources and thoughtfulness in building out patient-centered innovative telehealth programs only to have a relatively esoteric Joint Commission standard come into effect and turn that all upside down,” Lacktman told Fierce Healthcare earlier this year. Telehealth providers are already required to adhere to state-level telehealth regulations, as well as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Conditions of Participation when applicable.

Per a Joint Commission spokeswoman, the accrediting agency came to the decision to not move forward with the additional standards after “a review of existing requirements determined that quality and safety concerns for direct-to-patient telehealth were already addressed in seven standards chapters.” But providers and other interested parties will still have the opportunity to weigh in on telehealth standards. As the spokeswoman explained to Fierce Healthcare, the Joint Commission will “continue to evaluate additional options to ensure that critical quality and safety issues related to the provision of DTP telehealth services are addressed.” Lacktman notes that those interested in commenting can contact Mary Brockway, director of the Department of Standards and Survey Methods at the Joint Commission, at mbrockway@jointcommission.org.

Click here to read the article from Fierce Healthcare on the Joint Commission decision to scrap the new telehealth standards.

Click here to read the article from Health Care Law Today on the Joint Commission telehealth standards.

 

 

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